Here is Jeff McCarthy Addressing/ killing the Haggis at the Annual St Andrew’s Society Burns Nicht Supper in Montreal. Photo presented by request.
The Art of the Toast: St Andrew’s Dinners in the Nineteenth Century
As appears in the St Andrew’s Society of Montreal Journal, October 2010
By Gillian I Leitch, PhD
CDCI Research Inc
I was in the middle of researching St Andrew’s celebrations in the nineteenth-century when I had my first opportunity to attend the St Andrew’s Ball. After spending long hours in the microfilm stacks reading accounts of the toasts made at these kinds of events between 1800 and 1850, I was mightily disappointed when I heard the toasts being made that evening. After reading long lists of between fifteen and twenty toasts, the four I had heard were just not the same.
This article will discuss the art of the toast, as performed at nineteenth-century St Andrew’s dinners. The traditions associated with toasting were not limited to the Scots in Montreal, but were a part of the shared social rituals of English-speaking society in Montreal. The other national societies celebrated their patron saints at dinners in the same way, using the same rituals, and often the same toasts. These events demonstrated the nature of attachment of Montrealers for their lives in Montreal, and for their countries of origin.
Public dinners in the nineteenth-century were very ritualized events. Organisers and participants were sensitive to the meanings of different foods, decorations, order and placement. There were unwritten rules of conduct which guided those along during the evening. They could, by the changing of key elements, make political and social comments. It was subtle, but clearly understood by those present.
The public dinners held in the early nineteenth-century were the dominion of men. Their comportment at these affairs would not have been the same had women been present. The presence of women limited the type of behaviours they could exhibit, men had to present a more civilized demeanor in their company. The male-only environment permitted the use of less than polite language, excessive eating and drinking, and loud laughter and singing.
The St Andrew’s dinners were very elaborate affairs. The rooms were specially decorated with symbols of Scotia. Transparencies, glass plates lit from behind, with images painted on them were popular types of decoration. St Andrew was usually presented as a transparency at these events. The rooms also boasted banners and pictures depicting such Scottish luminaries as Robert Burns, Walter Scott, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. An image of the reigning monarch was always a feature of these events. Flags were also heavily used to decorated the rooms, and reinforce the attachment of those present to Scotland.
The Montreal Gazette described the decorations in the Albion Hotel in 1834:
The upper end of the room, immediately behind the chair of the President, was elegantly decorated by Mr. John Grant of this city, and represented a canopy, on the top of which was placed a Highland Chieftain’s bonnet and eagle plumes, and in front were arranged a claymore, target and dirks. The drapery from the canopy consisted of ample folds of the Royal Stuart tartan. Immediately in rear of the chair was an excellent transparency of Saint Andrew, painted by the gentleman just mentioned.
The food was likewise symbolically linked to Scotland. In 1844, “The Haggis was hot and matchless, the sheep’s head garnished with green kale, brought vividly to recollection of many present, the loved and honored land of their fathers.” One year there was as said in the description in the newspapers, a 250 lb haggis, although such a size seems unlikely. However, it is fair to say that the food presented at the dinners was as lavish as the decoration, and in excess of normal dining. Such volume in itself was important to the event, underscoring its importance to the participants.
But the highlight of the evening, and the part which dominated its coverage in the newspapers, was the toasts. “The cloth being removed,” the toasts were begun. The toasts rarely deviated from a set pattern. Even when the differences in time or in the national groups celebrating were taken into account, the toasts remained fairly standard.
The first toast of the evening was to the reigning monarch. This was followed by the day being celebrated. The land of their forefathers often came next, although it could also be to the members of the royal family, starting with the royal spouse. The Governor General was next, then the army and the navy, the sister societies (St Patrick’s Society, St George’s Society, etc.), the land we live in, selected national symbols and the guests. The toasts always ended with a toast to the ladies, referred to as the “Canadian fair.” The official toasts at most events numbered between twelve and fifteen, with several volunteer toasts made afterwards by enthusiastic guests.
Toasts were further enhanced by the addition of music. Many years the St Andrew’s dinners included the talents of a military band and pipers. In 1844, for example, the band of the 89th Regiment was present, along with two pipers from the 93rd Regiment. The Queen’s toast was finished off with the playing of God Save the Queen in 1847; the day with In the Garb of the Old Gael; Prince Albert and the Royal Family with Prince Albert’s March; the St George’s Society with The Roast Beef of England; the Land O’Cakes with Auld Lang Syne, etc.
Toasts often necessitated speeches. Peter McGill’s remarks to the first toast of the night took up three paragraphs in the Gazette, the second a further paragraph. A lot was said. Replies to the evening’s toasts were likewise long winded. This was all a part of the toasting, which served to foster good will and a sense of community. They never said anything that the assembled would not agree with.
This sense of conviviality and community was greased by alcohol. Every toast was followed by the drinking of wine. To drink water or not to drink at all, after a toast was proposed was considered an insult. To take the glass and turn it upside down was the ultimate insult. Drinking then was an integral part of the ritual. After twelve to fifteen toasts and the wine consumed with the meal, it can be gathered that many present were inebriated.
John Greenshields wrote about his experience at the St Andrew’s dinner in 1845 to his wife Eliza:
I proposed the health of the “ladies,” and made a speech in their praise, but it was the last toast of the night, and some people were pretty far gone and there was such a noise that I could hardly hear the sound of my own voice.
The newspaper accounts gloss over such drunken behaviour. And while it can be viewed negatively, as uncontrolled or even dangerous, it should not be seen solely in that light. As noted by Margaret Visser, alcohol lowers inhibitions, relaxes the participants, allowing them to “meld better into a group.” Greenshields finished off his description saying that “the dinner went off very well.” This was all a part of the tradition of toasting, and the participants would not have wanted it any other way.
This year, as we celebrate the society’s 175th Anniversary lift up a glass to the St Andrew’s members of old, who loved a good toast, or fifteen.
 Montreal Gazette, 4 December 1834.
 Montreal Gazette, 10 December 1844.
 Montreal Gazette, 10 December 1844.
 Montreal Gazette, 10 December 1844.
 Montreal Courier, 2 December 1847.
 Montreal Gazette, 3 December 1836.
 John Greenshields to Eliza Greenshields, 9 December 1845, McCord Museum of Canadian History, Greenshields Family Fonds P011]
 Margaret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner, Toronto, Harper Perrenial, 1991, 274.
 John Greenshields to Eliza Greenshields, 9 December 1845, McCord Museum of Canadian History, Greenshields Family Fonds P011]
Montreal Daily Star, 30 November 1898, page 3
St Andrew’s Ball
Elaborate preparations for to-night’s society event
Once more St Andrew’s day approaches and with it the time honored celebration of the St Andrew’s society, who have long indicated their claim to give the most successful public ball of the season. The whisper has gone about this year that the decorations are to be more lavish than ever before, which with the scarlet uniforms of the military men, picturesque Highland garb of the officers of the Royal Scots, and the magnificent toilettes of the ladies will make the scene a memorable one. Consequently the demand for seats in the gallery by those who through mourning or otherwise are unable to join the throng upon the floor has been almost greater than the supply and there are very few tickets left in the hands of the secretary.
The programme of dances has been carefully chosen and will be rendered by Quivron’s orchestra of twenty pieces, whilst the pipe-major of the society and his confreres will gather fresh laurels by the inspiring skirl of their pipes in the reels and strathspeys.
The supper of the most elaborate description will be a triumph of culinary and confectionary art the menu reflecting infinite credit on the chef of the Windsor. The society through the kindness of a distant friend have this year received a consignment of genuine short bread and oat cake from Glasgow, and the haggis with its stalwart supporters will make its usual imposing progress round the supper room to the music of the pipes.
The list of subscribers to date is larger than for many years past, and shows the keen interest taken by the elite of Montreal society in St Andrew’s ball.
Montreal Gazette, 2 March 1863
The Burns Scotch concert- We find the following in the Prescott Messenger, relative to Mr. AG Burns, who attended the annual celebration of the Grenville (CW) St Andrew’s Society:–
“Toast- The Ladies
“This brought up Mr. AG Burns, the celebrated Scotch vocalist, who responded by singing that highly humorous Scotch song “Green grow the rushes, O,” which was received with great applause. Mr. Burns has left the St Andrew’s Society under a deep dept of kindness on that occasion. He kept up in mirth, glee and harmless fun, first with his songs and then with his anecdotes. Mr. Burns has few equals. There were three songs in particular that he sung to perfection- even the great Mr. Templeton, could not have surpassed them. They were “Scots wha hae w’ Wallace bled,” “The death of Nelson,” and “O, a’ the airts the wind can blaw.”
Mr. Burns gives a concert in the Mechanics Hall this (Monday) evening. We have read the criticisms passed upon the performances of Mr. Burns by our confreres of the press in the United States, where he has sung very successfully and before crowded audiences. We are satisfied that the public will enjoy a rich treat and that Scotchmen, especially, will be delighted at the mementoes he will produce of their native land. He is to be assisted, as will be seen by Mr. David Miller, and Professor Agnew- two other Scotch names- and the programme altogether is most attractive. The Highland pipers of the Scots Fusilliers are also to be present, and if all this be not inducement sufficient to draw a crowded house, what more can be offered?
Montreal Daily Star, 30 November 1891, page 2
St Andrew’s Day
The sermon preached by the Chaplain of the Society
St Andrew’s Society have three forms of celebrating St Andrew’s Day. First they have their business meeting, then they have their annual sermon and the ball. The first was convened for Saturday night, and it was the first time within recollection of M Ewan McLennan that they did not have a quorum. After waiting for an hour it was decided to call the members together again to-morrow night.
The annual sermon was preached in St Andrew’s Church yesterday afternoon. The attendance was good and the majority wore their regalia and a sprig of heather. Among those present were Mr. Duncan McIntyre, president; Rev Principal J Clarke Murray, Rev J Edgar Hill, Dr Wanless, Lieut-Col Stevenson, Messrs Geo Macrae, WW Ogilvie, W Alex Caldwell, Ewan McLennan, WB Smith, JM Kirk, George Graham, AD Fraser, Jas Thaker, SC Stevenson, JM Campbell, Jas Harper, Geo W Adams, CT Christie, David Guthrie, Donald Campbell, Jas Moffatt, A McAllister and others. Rev James Patterson occupied the pulpit and the words of his text were “Watchman, what of the night,” from Isaiah XXI, II. He said the history of a night in the accepted term was worthy of consideration. Young Jacob’s dream, which occurred by night, was referred to, and the scene of Bethlehem’s Plains also and our Lord’s bitter moments when He prayed the more earnestly that if it were possible the cup might pass from Him. Benevolent associations, the preacher said, fitted a big space in their several functions. St Andrew’s Society, if not born in the night, was not born a day or an hour too soon in her work of relieving the poor. The Home was opened on June 11, 1857, and on June 27 the sad news was received of the burning of the steamship “City of Montreal”, having on board about 450 persons, 320 of whom were Scottish immigrants. Sixteen bodies were recovered and brought up to the city. When the fatality became known the committee set to work with a commendable will and did what they could to relieve the suffering and distress, by giving shelter and clothing to many of the survivors. Seventy-six found shelter in the Home. It was a sad sight to see brothers and sisters mourning and crying for each other. The Society gave Christian burial to the dead and also engaged counsel to watch the investigation into the cause of the burning of the ship. If the Society had never done anything towards relieving distress more than it did in connection with that terrible calamity it would have earned the lasting gratitude, not only of all Scotchmen, but of all lovers of their kind. The prosperous advance of the Society was referred to in flattering terms. The parochial system which was introduced into Scotland at the time of the Reformation gave Scotchmen many advantages from an educational point of view.
At the close of the services the members adjourned to the lecture hall of the church, when votes of thanks were passed to the preacher, to the church trustees, and the choir and organist.
Montreal Daily Star, 2 December 1890, page 3
The St. Andrew’s Ball
Carried out with usual success
At the Windsor Last Night—Friendly greetings from all parts—the dancing and the dresses
The patron saint of Scotland certainly could have no cause to complain of the manner in which his festival was observed in Montreal last night, for a more brilliant gathering of beauty and attractiveness has seldom been seen even in this metropolitan city. The decorations of the ball room were very tastefully arranged, and, of course, in keeping with the Scottish nature of the entertainment, the above at the extreme end of the ball room being filled with a large statue of St Andrew, while in front this was a blaze of lights surrounding the motto, “Scotland Yet,” and below the arms of the United Kingdom and the Province of Quebec. The sides of the room were decorated with flags of every nation, and the platform on which the band discoursed sweet music was made to look like a glimpse from the south, being covered with huge pots of palms and other tropical plants. About nine o’clock the weird strains of the pipers playing on their bagpipes gave forth the air of “The Campbells are coming,” and the procession was at once formed to lead the way into the ball room. The set of honor was composed of:
Mr. John Cassils and Mrs. Sclater.
Mr. SC Stevenson and Mrs. McShane
Lt-Col Houghton, DAG, and Mrs. Wm Cassils
Mr. HJ Cloran and Mrs. Caldwell
Lt-Col Mattice and Miss Macrae
Mr. Wm Cassils and Mrs. SC Stevenson
Among the features of the evening was the dancing of the Scotch reels and strathspeys of the old melodies so familiar to Highlanders, known as “The Dell among the tailors,” “The fectel aboot the fireside,” and “Lady Baird,” and the graceful manner in which the intricate and difficult steps of these national dances were performed by Mrs. Ewing and Mrs. Cameron won the admiration of all who had the privilege of seeing them. The guests were received by Mrs. John Cassils and Mr. Cassils, the president of the St Andrew’s Society, and dancing began immediately and was kept up with much vigor until the early hours of the morning. The Irish Protestant Benevolent Society was well represented by Mr. George Horne in the absence of the president, Mr. Arnton, who wore the full regalia of the office, consisting of a magnificent necklet of pure gold, fashioned into the form of shamrocks and harps profusely gemmed
WITH RUBIES AND EMERALDS.
At twelve o’clock supper was announced by the pipers, who proceeded into the dining-room, followed by four highlanders in kilts and tartan, who carried the historic haggis, which was enjoyed very much by some of the elder guests, the younger generation having not yet learned to appreciate the delicacy of this time-honored luxury. The telegraphic greetings from the numerous societies all over the United States and Canada were not read as formerly at supper, but they showed that though translated to a colder clime the poetic instinct of the Scottish nature has in now way suffered in Canadian soil. Greetings in verse came from the shores of the Pacific, from the Golden Gate of San Francisco, from the slopes of the great Rockies and from the Atlantic bound coast of New Brunswick, as well as from all the great cities of Brother Jonathan’ vast domain. The attractiveness of this ball was much increased by the first appearance of many charming young debutantes, who will add luster to the season in Montreal this winter.
Lady Hickson wore an exquisite gown, the train and bodice consisting of the most delicate shade of green silk, and the front of fine ecru lace caught down with bands of pale pink and green ribbons.
Lady Smith wore dark blue velvet trimmed with white lace, and diamond ornaments.
Mrs. John Cassils had on a very handsome gown of black silk trimmed with lace and turquoise embroidery.
Mrs. Colin Campbell had on a very tasteful gown of smoke tulle ornamented with garlands of pale pink rosebuds.
Mrs. Macmaster looked very charming in a trained gown of pale maize silk, and had magnificent diamond ornaments.
By the way, seldom has been seen in Montreal such an array of diamonds as
AT THE ST ANDREW’S BALL LAST NIGHT.
Mrs. McShane, whose gown was evidently Parisian, was dressed in white silk, with panels of embroidered pink roses set closely together, and her ornaments were also diamonds.
Miss Van Horne wore pale blue silk.
Miss Judah wore a gown particularly appropriate to the Scottish nature of the entertainment. It consisted of white satin, with a scarf of Royal Stuart tartan draped round the left shoulder and tied at the right side, and in her hair she wore a rosette of the Royal Stuart tartan ribbon.
Mrs. Elmenhorst looked charming in a gown of green brocaded satin, and carried a posy of white and deep red roses.
Amongst the debutantes, two of the most attractive were Miss Small, who wore white armure silk, trimmed with gold and turquoise beads, and Miss E Small, in white satin, trimmed with pearls.
Mrs. Small wore a very handsome gown of white brocaded satin embroidered in gold, with high Medici collar trimmed with Byzantine coins, and had round her neck a diamond necklace.
The gowns worn by Miss Abbott and Miss H Abbott were undoubtedly amongst the most beautiful in the room. The former consisted of white silk and chiffon heavily embroidered in gold, and trimmed with soft white feather trimming about the neck and edge of the skirt, and the latter wore rich smoke gray satin made with effective simplicity.
Miss Ethel bond looked very well in white satin, covered with gold colored spotted silk net trimmed with gold embroidery.
Miss Alice Mills had on a very dainty gown of pale pink silk, draped with white chiffon, and edged round the bodice and bottom of the skirt with pink roses.
Mrs. Maurice E Davis had on white satin with garlands of violets, and round her neck was an exquisitely fashioned necklace and pendant of pearls.
THE INVITED GUESTS
The following is the official list of the invited guests…..
By popular demand…….
St Andrew’s Society of Montreal Burns Nicht
Montreal Daily Star, 25 November 1890, page 2
St. Andrew’s Day
Preparations for the Ball at the Windsor
Monday evening next will be a gay night. Scotland and Scotia’s sons in Montreal intend celebrating the anniversary of their patron saint by a grand ball in the Windsor Hotel. “Last year,” said an officer of St. Andrew’s Society, “our ball surpassed anything previously held, and we intend making the ball of December 1 superior in every respect to any yet given under our auspices. It will be one of the social events of the season.” Last year there were 563 at the St. Andrew’s ball, but Monday night will see a larger number than this down on the ball list. The subscription committee comprises twenty-five leading members, and the list of one of them handed to the secretary on Saturday contains sixty-three. This alone is an indication of the popularity of the coming event.
The Windsor Hall will be beautifully decorated for the occasion, and the ornamentation will largely possess a national character and will recall to many the memories of old Scotland. The supper committee, of which Lieut-Col Whitehead is chairman, are going to provide the best that the Windsor’s cuisine can afford. A St. Andrew’s ball would not be complete without the pipes and the reels, and Scotch dances will be inspired by the strains of five pipes played by as many kilted pipers. The general music will be furnished by the Gruenwald Orchestra. All the preparations are progressing satisfactorily and St Andrew’s Society fully expect to make Monday next an event in their history.
Montreal Daily Star, 30 November 1887, page 5
Scotland for ever
“Oh! Caledonia, Stern, Wild”
St Andrew’s Day festivities- ball and concert to-night
St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, after whom so many historical pieces are named, from the knightly order of St Andrew, or the Thistle of Scotland, and that of Russia, St. Andrew’s University, the oldest in Scotland, St Andrew’s city, supposed to date from the 9th century. Why St Andrew should be or is the patron saint of Scotland history pertaineth not, though tradition says that to Achaine, King of Scots, and Hungries, king of the Picts; appeared the oblique cross of St Andrew in the heavens as a sign that they should gain the victory over Athelstane, King of England; and tradition also recounts that after their victory they made a vow that the cross of St Andrew should always be borne on their banners.
To-day is the anniversary of this healthy old saint, and Scotsman, not less in Montreal than over the world, with their thistle or heather, will keep his day in remembrance.
A small army of carpenters
Has invaded the parlor floor of the Windsor Hotel, and were making preparations this morning for the St Andrew’s Ball and the supper that will follow it.
The decorations of this and the supper room, which is really the ladies ordinary, will consist of large palms, ferns and flowers, artistically ranged around the sides by Mr JS Murray, the well known florist. There will be some thirty-six tables seating four persons each and at the end of the room is a large horse shoe shaped carving table behind which six stalwart cooks will deal out the viands called for while two monstrous ice wells will contain the oysters.
The menu which has been prepared
Under special supervision of Herr Louis Feltman, the chef de cuisine of the Windsor, is a very elaborate one.
During the serving of the Haggis, the pipers will render several songs dear to the Scottish heart.
The piece de resistance is a large pyramid of nougat, filled with sugar flowers and flanked on each side by two almost as large fruit and macaroon pyramids.
Refreshments during the ball will be served in the clubroom. Vice-president, Sir Donald A Smith, and the officers of the society will receive the guests from nine till half past, when dancing will commence.
Montreal Daily Star, 30 November 1888, page 2
St. Andrew’s Society
Feeling References made in the reports to the Loss sustained by death
The annual meeting of the St. Andrew’s Society was held last night at the Home on Aqueduct street. As the business was of a purely formal character, the attendance was not very large, but among those present were Messrs RB Angus, president, in the chair E McLennan, Revs Dr Smyth, and Jas Patterson, Messrs James Tasker, Robert Mitchell, Alex. Stewart, John Allan, James Wright, CT Christy, WM Rutherford and W Alex. Caldwell, secretary.
After the Secretary had read the minutes of the last meeting and of the proceeding annual meetings, Mr Jas Tasker read the report prepared by Revs James Barclay and Dr Campbell, on the members who had died during the year. These were Hon Senator Ferrier, one of the original members and president 41 years ago; Mr John Ogilvie, John McIntosh, Ferdinand Mcculloch and Samuel Greenshields. The report concluded by saying: “In recording the loss which the society has sustained in the removal of these honored members, it begs to tender to the mourning families of the deceased an expression of its warmest sympathy with them in their sorrow.”
The chairman referred with great feeling to the sudden and unexpected death of Mr Samuel Greenshields since their last meeting, saying that his sweet life had endeared him to all his friends, while to the poor he was a good friend. He did not know of any death which he felt so much personally or which was a greater loss to the community.
The chairman stated that but little canvassing for funds had been attempted, but that the circular had met with responses in several cases; among them was a cheque for $500 from Mrs. Dow. After the festivities were safely over, an effort would have to be made to clear off the debt from their elegant and useful building as the increased demands which would certainly be made on them would not allow of any expenditure in interest.
Mr W Rutherford, president, and the secretary of the Caledonian Society at this moment came forward as a deputation with the substantial help of a cheque for $100, to be devoted to the charitable work of the Home.
Mr Angus, in accepting the cheque, said he had been pleased to notice the success of the Caledonian Society in keeping up the national games and the hardy spirit that were characteristic of Scotia’s sons. He was glad to welcome them and to receive the practical expression of sympathy, and hoped they would pay a similar visit next year.
Mr Stirling reported that the arrangements for the ball were progressing satisfactorily, and the chairman in concluding the meeting said that the ball had been warmly taken up and was likely to prove, as usual, a substantial affair, and he hoped to see all these now present at it.
A special meeting of the Caledonian Society was held in St Andrew’s Home for the purpose of voting the cheque alluded to above, Mr W Rutherford, president and Mr ~~~~ Secretary, being depoted to present it.